MacDonald Joins UMass Coaching Staff

With Red Gendron officially joining Yale over the weekend, it didn’t take long for his replacement to become official.  The university announced today that former Lowell coach Blaise MacDonald will be joining the Minutemen as an assistant coach.  As readers know, both moves have been in the works for a while since first being reported by USHR last month.

Let me repeat what I wrote when this was all originally reported,  and that’s to thank Coach Gendron for his contributions to UMass hockey.  If there has been one aspect of the program that I’ve thought has consistently been good year in and year out it has been recruiting, and Red has been a big part of that.  He has also been a great ambassador of the program and friendly and approachable towards all who follow the program.  I wish him well in the future, however considering he possesses two Stanley Cup rings and an NCAA championship it’s clear that success will seek him out.

Dick Baker has a good post covering both Gendron moving on and MacDonald’s hiring where Red cites Yale’s quality program, his longtime relationship with Bulldog coach Keith Allain, and the opportunity to be an associate head coach as his reasons for leaving.  Also likely a motivation is the job security that comes with a coaching job in the Ivy League (*coughdonatocough*) compared to the situation here at UMass where it’s likely Toot Cahoon will be retiring sometime in the next few years.  Still, Coach Gendron will be missed.

Regarding the hiring of MacDonald, I think it’s a good move.  You don’t often get the chance to add someone with extensive head coaching experience to staff.  Frankly, I wasn’t surprised that his tenure at Lowell ended this spring after a number of seasons where his teams underperformed.  However, throughout his time at Lowell I always admired the job he did recruiting.  Despite not always having the best facilities or even much support from school administration at times he consistently brought in quality classes.  I would argue his recruiting classes were as good, if not better, than UMass’ in the last few years.  The program shouldn’t lose anything by putting him in the lead assistant role.

So MacDonald is obviously well-qualified for this position.  The only reservation I have is whether this would’ve been a good opportunity to bring in a  dynamic young assistant to groom for when Toot retires.  Would such a thing be plausible however?  Perhaps not.  Maybe it would be better for such future candidates to gain deeper head coaching experience at other levels of hockey.  I guess just as long as we truly get an open and aggressive search when it does come time to fill the head coaching position, versus taking the easy route to just hand it off to someone familiar, I’ll be happy.

It’ll be interesting to see if UMass picks up any commitments in the next few weeks of recruits who maybe were preparing to commit to Lowell before the made their coaching change.

Obi Aduba has resigned with Quad City Mallards of the CHL (who barely escaped death this offseason).  He’ll also be attending training camp for the Springfield Falcons this fall.

Greg Mauldin is one of the featured coaches for the Junior Bruins summer camp this year, his team before coming to UMass.  I believe that Colin Shea is also working at the camp.

Red’s Departure From UMass Official

Some UMass related links to pass along.

The New Haven Register is now reporting that assistant Red Gendron is heading to Yale.  The announcement will likely come later this week.  And everything I’ve heard points to his replacement at UMass being former Lowell coach Blaise McDonald.  I’ll likely have more on Red later in the week.  USCHO is also reporting the move.

Checking around the NHL camps, here is a feature on Mike Marcou and his time at Islanders camp.  Conor Allen is featured on a video from the Capitals website.  He does a great job of making the case for college hockey.

Casey Wellman has signed a one year, two way contract with the Wild.

Of course the big college hockey news of the week was the official unveiling of the National Collegiate Hockey Conference.  That’s the last time I’m ever typing that out.  And no, I refuse to call it “The National”.  Although I may call it “Natty”.  The forming of the NCHC led to Northern Michigan jumping to the WCHA.  Of course everyone is still waiting for Notre Dame to make up their mind in this conference realignment.

Meanwhile, Minnesota State Moorhead is working towards upgrading their program to DI.

Pereira Goes Undrafted

Despite a very successful freshman season in Hockey East, UMass forward Mike Pereira was not selected in this past weekend’s NHL draft.  Pereira did not dwell on the draft this year, telling Matt Vautour of the Gazette that he would be checking the coverage here and there during the day but wasn’t planning around it.  He did say that going undrafted last year motivated him, so it likely will again.  A strong sophomore effort would go a long way to helping the UMass team have a breakout season.  In fact, following the draft Pereira thanked his supporters on twitter and ended with the hashtag “#missionHEchampionship”.  Sounds motivated to me.  Maybe we can send the NHL scouts a thank you note in a couple years for replacing the chip on his shoulder.

Dick Baker had some interesting comments from assistant coach Red Gendron on what Pereira not being drafted means for the long run.  Interesting in what Red had to say and interesting that it’s Red that’s saying it.  Maybe the news of him going to Yale wasn’t as definite as first thought.

Hockey East did have a number of current and future players picked over the weekend, including Northeastern defenseman Jamie Oleksiak.  With Greg Cronin bolting for the NHL the college future of Oleksiak and some top Husky recruits is in question.

Former UMass commit Zack Phillips was picked 28th overall, joining John Carlson as first round picks who never made it to Amherst.

Around the NHL, Casey Wellman, a restricted free agent, was offered a qualifying contract by the Wild and Danny Hobbs is attending New York Ranger Development Camp for the third straight summer.  Only a handful of camps have started or released their roster so far.  I’ll do my best to pass along news of any other attendees.

Lastly, a bunch of people have asked me about potential roster changes going into next season.  I’ve certainly heard some speculative talk regarding  players who might be looking to leave due to playing time or other reasons, but as of yet I don’t know of anything official.  The roster at UMassAthletics.com has been updated with everyone’s new class year (I think Joel Hanley and Stephen Guzzo were mistakenly switched), but so far there are no deletions from last year’s squad reflected.

Red Leaving For Ivy Green?

Back from vacation means back to writing about UMass hockey.  I had a great trip down to the  mid-Atlantic area.  I got to visit three breweries (Dogfish Head, Ram’s Head/Fordham, Victory), see countless national treasures like the Constitution and Declaration of Independence, and hung out with a few of the original Section U inhabitants dating back to the triangle days.

So did anything happen hockey-wise in this area while I was gone?  Oh yeah, the Bruins won the Stanley Cup!!  What a run.  I’m definitely a college hockey fan first, as that’s how I first got into the game, but seeing the black and gold as the owners of Lord Stanley’s chalice is beyond thrilling.  New England is now the center of the hockey world, let’s hope that continues next fall when UMass and the rest of Hockey East return to the ice.

Of course there was some UMass news during last week as well.  USHR reported that Red Gendron will be leaving Amherst to take an assistant coaching position at Yale under Keith Allain.  Gendron does have a relationship already with Allain from when they previously coached for the US program.  From everything I’ve heard, this report appears to be true even though it’s not official yet.  I’ll be sorry to see Red go.  He’s done a lot for the program from recruiting many of the talented players on the ice to all the hard work he does for things like the annual golf outing.  He’s also been very friendly to fans and supporters of the program.  Whatever the future holds for him, I’ll be rooting for him (except of course when Yale comes to town this fall).

Also in the USHR report was the statement that they’re “hearing” that Red will be replaced by former Lowell coach Blaise MacDonald.  Besides being colleagues in the Hockey East coaching ranks, MacDonald and Toot Cahoon were also assistants together at BU.  First off, I have not been able to confirm that the report that MacDonald is about to be hired is true, but makes sense that he’d be in the mix.  Secondly, I’m not sure I like this news.  I have a lot of respect for the job that Blaise did at Lowell.  Against all of the challenges that surrounded that program, even when it was on the verge of getting mothballed by the Board of Trustees, he was able to consistently recruit some top talent in the league.  However, he was just fired from that job because he was never able to get that talent to its full potential.  At Lowell he had a history of his very best teams underperforming regularly and sometimes dramatically.  Problem is, in recent years UMass has also suffered from that same charge of underperforming compared to its potential.  If Toot is going to bring in someone new to the staff, I would rather the person have a record of addressing some of the team’s recent deficiencies.

My ideal replacement for Red?  Hire alum and current ECHL coach Dean Stork and groom him to replace Toot in a couple years when he likely retires.

In other Hockey East coaching news, remember how friend of FTT Ryan S. Clark reported a couple months ago that Greg Cronin was leaving Northeastern for the NHL and Cronin vehemently denied the report?  Well Cronin was hired today as an assistant coach for Toronto.  Maple Leafs or Northeastern?  Hmm…lateral move at best.  It should be interesting to see if any recruits or current Husky players look to leave with their coach on the move.

UMass has lost out to Providence for the services of South Kent defenseman Anthony Florentino.  Florentino is a talented defenseman who has participated in past US national development camps previously.  This one hurts a little because he has some close ties to the Minuteman program and from what I’ve read is highly regarded.

Congratulations to Conor Allen, Mike Lecomte, Kevin Moore, Colin Shea, and Jeff Teglia who were named to the Hockey East All-Academic Team for this past season.  Lecomte was named to the team for all four of his years at UMass.

Stuff the ballot box!  Vote for Paul Dainton for UMass Play of the Year!

Speaking of voting, don’t forget to take the survey for which UMass license plate you like best.

With the Cup awarded, that means the NHL Draft is just around the corner.  Hockey’s Future has Mike Pereira as one of the top 10 draft eligible players in the NCAA.  Pereira will also be featured in a pre-draft article in the New England Hockey Journal that I’ll be sure to pass along when it’s published.

Dick Baker of the Republican caught up with Greg Mauldin and Justin Braun at last week’s Golf Outing.

View From Section U: On The Subject Of Recruiting

A couple weeks ago Ryan S. Clark, reporter for the Fargo-Moorhead Forum, was nice enough to share his thoughts on UMass recruits Oleg Yevenko and Shane Walsh as well as Western amateur hockey in general with Fear The Triangle.  With Walsh and Yevenko’s teams starting a USHL second round series tonight Clark had a feature on Yevenko and his return from suspension in today’s paper.  He also put some of his unused material for the Yevenko story on his blog.

Personally I’m kind of disappointed in his story.  Not for the content mind you, it’s great that Clark has been able to provide us UMass fans with insight into this future Minuteman.  Believe me, it’s really tough to find much first hand material on hockey recruits.  No, my disappointment surrounds the picture.  In the time since Yevenko committed to UMass he has been suspended twice, finished second in his league for penalty minutes, and I even may have seen some disparaging remarks about him on Twitter by other USHL fans.  Yet this is the picture we get?  I expected to see something more like this with the caption, “If he dies, he dies.”

It sounds to me that Yevenko suffers from the same ailment that Brian Boyle did when he played in Hockey East.  Everyone else in the league happens to come up to his elbows and therefore he gets called for a lot of penalties.  That’s not to say he’s not tough or aggressive.  Obviously he is if he’s fighting teammates in practice or delivering big hits in scrimmages, he is.  But at the same time guys that much bigger than everyone else will always be on the wrong end of some calls.  Hopefully that won’t happen too much when he joins UMass next year or the penalty kill will improve.  As for the series between Yevenko’s Fargo Force and the Dubuque Saints which is starting as I type this, I just hope he goes easy on future teammate Shane Walsh.

Being able to learn more about UMass’ towering new player got me to evaluating the current crop of recruits out there for the Minutemen.  Coach Cahoon’s recruiting has taken some criticism recently, some of which I think is deserved.  Last year’s class, while without more than one or two very well known prospects, was very deep and as it turns out perhaps underrated.  Overall prospects for next year are looking good if this year’s inconsistent freshman can become improved sophomores.  But there were some deficiencies in the class.  Namely, I thought the team lacked an aspect of toughness.  Not that the players weren’t tough in terms of how they carried themselves, but that they had a difficult time making things tough for their opponents.  Namely, opposing teams were never afraid to enter the offensive zone or skate across the slot.  This team didn’t have an Alex Berry or even a Martin Nolet who would make them pay for such an action.  Obviously with Yevenko’s addition to next fall’s freshman crop Cahoon has taken action to correct that deficiency in the team’s makeup.  I think he did the same with adding another quality goaltender, Steve Mastalerz, to complement Jeff Teglia and fellow incoming freshman Kevin Boyle.  The limit of UMass’ potential next year could very well come down to the play they get out of their goaltenders, so adding another talented player to that mix seems like a smart idea in my view.  I’ve always been a big proponent for competition between goaltenders and keeping them hungry.

On the larger issue of recruiting, I think Cahoon has gotten a bad rap lately.  Now as certain winter inhabitants of Boca Raton may tell you, I fear the truth. Yet, I’m still going to take a moment to defend Cahoon from some recent criticism I’ve read and heard.  I guess the thought out there is that UMass fans can thank former assistant coach Mark Dennehy, and Mark Dennehy alone, for all of the team’s best recruits and success for the past decade.  Now I’m  a big fan of Mark Dennehy.  In fact I don’t know of many others who were more pissed off when he was shunned for Hockey East Coach of the Year in recent months.  And we can all agree his contributions to UMass hockey are great.  But I think to say he’s solely responsible for the construction of the most successful UMass teams is a stretch.  As some would lead you to believe Dennehy was the only reason why guys like Jon Quick came to Amherst.  I don’t think this is true.

As FTT readers know, I do my best to read everything I can about UMass hockey and pass it along to you.  But even before there was a FTT I was still reading everything I could find.  And when teenage junior hockey players like James Marcou or Justin Braun spoke about their decision to come to Amherst they cited, among a number of other strong arguments, Toot Cahoon as one of their reasons.  I didn’t see Dennehy specifically mentioned.  Ever.  Not to say he doesn’t deserve credit for the recruiting he did while here, and his recruiting abilities continue to yield results at Merrimack, but he still was part of a staff assembled by Cahoon.  It is ultimately the head coach’s responsibility to delegate recruiting responsibilities and extend scholarships.  Ultimately the buck stops with him.  Assistants may do a lot of the initial leg work, but it’s usually the head coach who is the end-all decider.

The whole Dennehy recruiting myth also conveniently leaves out some blue chip recruits that committed to UMass long after he left, like John Carlson and Zack Phillips.  Carlson was considered a candidate for the Calder Trophy in the NHL this year while Zack Phillips will likely be a first round pick in June’s NHL draft.  Unfortunately the cash lure of major juniors proved too much and they weren’t able to become Minutemen, but I don’t think their decision to renege on their commitments should detract that Cahoon and his current staff of Red Gendron and Len Quesnelle still got these elite  players to choose UMass.  Even on the current roster, shouldn’t the current coaching staff get credit for getting Mike Pereira, who I  still think trumped a current NHL first round draft pick for Hockey East Rookie of the Year, to become a Minuteman?

All in all, I cannot argue against those who are disappointed with the team’s recent success when it comes to wins and losses and Cahoon’s responsibility in that outcome.  I’m right there with you.  Probably not last year, but since 2007 this team has not lived up to potential.  But it’s a misrepresentation to say that Cahoon’s recruiting successes have come at the hands of others.  It ignores the recent successes of Cahoon and the current staff in that field. Also,  it doesn’t take into account that Cahoon ultimately makes all recruiting decisions.  And it surely doesn’t look ahead at what he has lined up for next year.  And if you disagree, you just may be on the wrong end of a Oleg Yevenko elbow come next season.